I recently discovered this extremely cool book from New York City-based saxophonist and composer Jon De Lucia. Bach Shapes is written in the tradition of jazz saxophones books with motives moved to different keys, written down, followed by etudes. Like the Technique of the Saxophone series by Berklee College of Music’s Joseph Viola, Bach Shapes has a similar vibe but with a modern twist.
Interestingly, to me – the modern twist involves going back to the music of J.S. Bach and deriving beautiful melodic shapes for the modern musician to use. Although written for saxophonists specifically, I found this book to be immensely useful for myself as a guitarist.
This book reminds me of Steve Rochinski’s The Motivic Basis for Jazz Guitar book and Steve Neff’s Approach Note Velocity series books as well. They are guiding us through the material – in rough terrain so we can reach the beautiful oasis of melodic expression sooner than we would alone. Another book that comes to mine is Mark McKnight’s The Creative Method – though Mark’s book is more about having a specific approach to practicing any material. Definitely all these books I’ve mentioned are compatible as I can see them sharing similar aesthetics.
[My Experience Working With The Book]
I worked through the first few shapes & it was inspiring to see how it made me pay attention to the details in the line, the fingering and my tone. Jon goes into some practice suggestions to maximise the benefits of the Bach Shapes. There are definite parallels to guitar playing worth deriving from Jon’s saxophone approach tips. What I would definitely recommend is for guitar players to notate various fingering options for each shape. I already found some new fingering options that work better for some shapes. Attempting them both pickstyle and fingerstyle, it was fascinating to see how it felt to experience these melodies with different right hand techniques. It would be interesting to see a version of this book with guitar fingerings notated or tabbed. However, I do feel that it would be great for the experienced guitarist to explore this aspect on their own as part of the process.
There are some cool blog posts from Jon on the influence of Bach in Paul Desmond’s playing:
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 1
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 2
Bach and the Intervallic Sequences of Paul Desmond Part 3
Here are some videos with Jon performing the etudes from the book:
Pros: A very well organised resource for musicians of any instrument to explore Bach’s melodic shapes for technique, tone, compositional and improvisational development.
Cons: Since the book is written for saxophonists, guitarists will need to decide on suitable fingerings. Therefore, if you’re not very familiar with the fretboard, this may require additional study before or alongside this material.
TLDR: If you’re looking to develop your melodic language and want to look for strong melodic material to work on, this is a great book to get!
I received a review copy of this book from author Jon De Lucia. Thank you Jon!
How to Buy:
Please buy this book directly from the author here. Please do say hi to Jon & let him know if you found out of the book from this post. 🙂
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